Third coalition war

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The Third Coalition War , also known as the Second Napoleonic War , took place in 1805. It was fought between France and its German allies, particularly Württemberg , Bavaria and Baden , and the allies around Great Britain , Russia , Austria , Sweden and Naples . Napoleon won the battle of Ulm . A day later, on October 21, the Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated in the Battle of Trafalgar . A united Russian-Austrian army was defeated by Napoleon on December 2nd in the Battle of Austerlitz . As a result, Austria had to make the Peace of Pressburg , while Russia and Great Britain continued the war. The result of the Third Coalition was that Britain was now the ruling power at sea. Napoleon dominated continental Europe. In 1806, he fundamentally changed the situation, especially in Germany. He created the Rheinbund , whose members left the Holy Roman Empire . Thereupon Emperor Franz II laid down the crown of the empire on August 6th.


It was clear to the leading European politicians and especially to Napoleon that the peace treaties of Lunéville (1801) and Amiens (1802), which ended the Second Coalition War , were not a lasting solution. Between France, ruled by Napoleon, and Great Britain, tensions had increased again since the second half of 1802. This contributed to the fact that Napoleon played an active role in the Caribbean . There was also evidence that he was again interested in Egypt and the Middle East . There were reports in French newspapers that 10,000 men would be enough to retake Egypt.

The plum pudding in danger: William Pitt the Younger (left) and Napoléon Bonaparte share the world (caricature by James Gillray 1805)

In Italy, Napoleon increased his influence when he transformed the Cisalpine Republic into the Italian Republic and made himself president. He joined Piedmont to France. The French army was not deducted against the Treaty of Amiens from the Netherlands, but that got Batavian Republic a new constitution on the French model. The Helvetic Republic was also closely dependent on France . With the act of mediation , Napoleon had given the country a new federal constitution. At the same time, the country had to be politically bound to France for fifty years.

As an indirect consequence of the Second Coalition War and the loss of the territory of the Holy Roman Empire on the left bank of the Rhine, the main decision of the Imperial Deputation on February 25, 1803 led to the secularization of the spiritual states with the exception of the Electorate of Mainz . Most imperial cities and numerous small imperial estates and imperial knights were mediatized and connected to larger territories. In addition to Prussia , Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and Hessen-Darmstadt in particular benefited from this . Central states emerged mainly in southern Germany, which in the 19th century formed the core of a third Germany between Prussia and Austria. The enlarged states corresponded to Napoleon's calculations. You should weaken Austria, but you should be too weak to endanger France.

The French economy tried to protect Napoleon from English competition through tariffs. The British refused, contrary to the peace treaty, to evacuate Malta and return it to the Knights of St. John . Napoleon indirectly threatened war on March 13, 1803 when he criticized the British ambassador Lord Whitworth for the British violation of the peace treaty. The ambassador returned to London and a short time later, on May 23, Great Britain declared war on France. The declaration of war came from England, but Napoleon's hegemonic policy made a major contribution to the outbreak of war.

Central Europe around 1803

In the following two years, the war in Europe was uneventful. The French market was closed to British goods and Napoleon had the Electorate of Hanover , which was in personal union with Great Britain, occupied. The British took French ships as prizes and occupied much of the French colonies.

Battle of Cape Finisterre

Napoleon planned an invasion of England and to do this he gathered an army of 150,000 men on the Channel coast, the Armée des côtes d'Angleterre (British Army). The headquarters of this army was at Boulogne-sur-Mer . Numerous transport ships were also built, but an invasion was unthinkable without strong naval protection. After Spain entered the war on the French side, the balance of power at sea improved. In the battle of Cape Finisterre the Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated and an invasion did not take place.

Formation of the opposing camp

Napoleon had crowned himself emperor on December 2, 1804. The Ligurian Republic was annexed to France, the Batavian Republic and Switzerland were placed under the protection of France. The duchies of Parma and Piacenza lost their independence. The Kingdom of Naples was occupied.

On the continent, too, the diplomatic constellation deteriorated to the disadvantage of France. It was mainly because of Napoleon's ambitions in the Middle East that Alexander I of Russia had drawn closer to the British. On April 11, 1805, an alliance was formed in St. Petersburg , the declared aim of which was to restrict France to the borders of 1792. Austria, Sweden and Naples joined the alliance. Prussia remained neutral.

On the other hand, Napoleon built an alliance of various southern German members of the Holy Roman Empire. His allies were Württemberg, Bavaria, Baden and Hanau. Napoleon concluded the contracts of Bogenhausen , Baden-Baden and Ludwigsburg with them .

Starting position

Strategic location at the start of the war before the battle of Ulm

The Allies planned that the main conflict should take place in Italy. Troops under Karl von Österreich-Teschen were on the Adige . This army was 64,000 strong. Another 17,000 men were in South Tyrol . In North Tyrol and Vorarlberg there was an army under Archduke Johann of Austria with 24,000 men. A Russian-English army of 30,000 men was to land in the Kingdom of Naples from Malta and Corfu . In southern Germany there was an army under the initial official command of Emperor Franz, made up of 70,000 men. Another 20,000 men were destined to invade Bavaria . This army should be reinforced by a Russian one. Another Russian corps reinforced by Sweden was to march through Pomerania towards Hanover. Emperor Franz crossed the Inn in mid-September and handed the troops over to Archduke Johann and General Karl Mack von Leiberich . They wanted to wait for the Russian support army in an extended position with 60,000 men on the Danube near Ingolstadt and Ulm and the Iller to Kempten .

In anticipation of a war with Austria, Napoleon ordered the army to be transferred from the Boulogne camp to the Rhine at the end of August . She marched, now called the Grande Army , at a rapid pace on the Rhine from August 27th. These troops were reinforced with further corps, from Holland the army corps of Marmont and from Hanover the troops under Bernadotte had to advance to the Main . The guard as well as other reserve troops under Marshal Augereau were ordered second to Strasbourg . The main power of the Grande Armée marched ahead in the direction of the Danube , where troops from Bavaria , Württemberg and Baden also joined them by October 1805 . In total, Napoleon and his allies had about 167,000 infantry and 33,000 cavalry .


The Austrian troops are taken prisoner after the defeat near Ulm.
The Battle of Trafalgar by Clarkson Stanfield
Napoléon at the Battle of Austerlitz, painting by François Gérard

The war began with an attack by Austria on September 8th, a corps under FML Klenau advanced into Bavaria with 30 battalions and 29 squadrons. The Bavarian troops under Deroy were largely able to break away through marches via Sulzbach and Forchheim into the Upper Palatinate . Austria declared war on France only on September 23. When the false news arrived that the French had already crossed the Rhine at Kehl and threatened Offenbach , Field Marshal Lieutenant Mack had the main army move from Munich to the Iller and prepared Ulm , Memmingen and Kempten for defense. Field Marshal Lieutenant Kienmayer's corps remained concentrated towards the Bavarians at Neuburg and Ingolstadt and had to wait for the union with the Russians.

The French crossed the Rhine in several places on September 25th . Marmont's troops united with the Bavarians under General Wrede am Main near Würzburg at the beginning of October to form an army of 60,000 men. The French troops then crossed the Danube, on October 6th the Soult corps at Donauwörth , Marmont near Neuburg and Ingolstadt . To cover the connections to the rear, another army corps under Marshal Ney was deployed on the upper Neckar between Heilbronn and Stuttgart , after the battle near Günzburg with troops under Archduke Ferdinand , a bridge over the Danube was won at Günzburg on October 9th . It was only at this point in time that General Mack recognized the impending danger of his troops being encircled. Instead of establishing the possible union with the Jellačić division near Biberach and moving south through Upper Swabia in order to join the army of Archduke Johann in Tirol, he withdrew his army to the northern bank of the Danube. Munich was occupied by General Wrede and Augsburg von Marmont on October 12th . The Austrian corps Kienmayer had to withdraw via Munich into the Innviertel and later established the connection with the avant-garde of the Russian army. Ney managed to beat the Austrians again on October 14th in the Battle of Elchingen . In an encircling movement, the Austrian army under Karl Mack was surrounded near Ulm and, after brief siege battles, was forced to surrender. Mack had to surrender with most of his army on October 17th, around 26,000 Austrians were taken prisoner by the French on October 20th.

In northern Germany a Russian army under Ostermann-Tolstoy landed with 15,000 men in Pomerania , united with Swedish units and marched through Mecklenburg towards Hanover. An Anglo-German corps was to join the Weser . In Prussia too, preparations began to take part in the war against Napoleon.

Four days after Mack's surrender, the Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated on October 21, 1805 by Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar . This also meant the final end for all invasion plans in England. Only when Napoleon ruled continental Europe could he hope to force England to peace too. In the longer term, this meant the assertion of British superiority at sea and this enabled the British to later intervene with ground troops in Spain.

Tyrol was occupied by the 23,000 strong corps under Archduke Johann, on the Inn the French faced another 15,000 Austrians under Kienmayer. Marshal Augereau crossed the Rhine on October 23, reached the area near Stockach on November 9, and drew in the troops from Baden and Württemberg. Napoleon reinforced this force to protect the flanks of the main army. The Austrian Italian Army under Archduke Karl and Bellegarde stood on the Adige with around 50,000 men and on October 31, they won the Battle of Caldiero over the equally strong French under Masséna . After Mack surrendered near Ulm, Archduke Karl had to retreat northwards under rearguard fights. French troops under Massena occupied Trieste .

Augereau's troops marched along Lake Constance towards Bregenz and, after fighting near Feldkirch, forced the Austrians to surrender on October 14 under Jellačić near Dornbirn . On November 7th, Innsbruck was taken by the French under Ney. Archduke Johann withdrew the Tyrolean Corps towards the Brenner Pass . He marched through the Pustertal and united his corps with Archduke Karl on November 26th. Together this army was about 80,000 strong, and the troops that had returned from Salzburg joined them . Archduke Karl evaded the pursuit by marching to Hungary, but his army could not reach the decisive theater of war in Moravia in time.

The Russian army under Prince Kutuzov reached Braunau am Inn with 46,000 men from October 12 to 22 . Since the position on the Inn was not tenable, the retreat to the left bank of the Danube began on October 25 to await the arrival of further units. Emperor Franz II united the troops withdrawn from the city, around 13,000 men under Prince Auersperg , with the Russian army, which also included Alexander I. On November 11th a small defensive success was achieved at Dürnstein , but the Russians marched off to Moravia . The way to Vienna was clear and Napoleon marched into the evacuated city on November 13 without a fight. The allies decided to battle Napoleon at Brno after another 30,000 Russian soldiers arrived. In total, the allies had about 85,000 infantry and 16,000 cavalrymen. On December 2, 1805, the decisive battle at Austerlitz took place . Although numerically weaker than the opposing army, Napoleon achieved a clear victory in the Battle of the Three Emperors. The allies withdrew again. Gradually the proximity of Archduke Karl's troops became noticeable and the Austrians also had minor successes in Bohemia . But after the withdrawal of the Russians, an armistice had to be concluded with the French on December 6th.

A possible intervention by Prussia on the Allied side, as it appeared possible through a Prussian-Russian alliance of November 3rd, was no longer a threat to Napoleon. Austria was defeated.


Homage to the princes of the Rhine Confederation , colored lithograph by Charles Motte

In the Peace of Pressburg of December 26th, Francis II had to accept difficult conditions. The Habsburgs lost their last possessions in Italy. Venice , Istria and Dalmatia were added to the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy . Tyrol and Vorarlberg fell to Bavaria. The western Austrian possessions in Swabia came to Württemberg and Baden. Bavaria and Württemberg were elevated to kingdoms by Napoleon. In the Treaty of Schönbrunn of December 15, 1805 between France and Prussia, the Hohenzollerns renounced Neuchatel , which fell to France, while the Principality of Ansbach was added to Bavaria. In return, Prussia received the Electorate of Hanover . Peace negotiations with Russia and Great Britain were unsuccessful.

Napoleon tried to secure his victory through numerous measures: Various family members of the Bonapartes were given territories dependent on France. So the brother Joseph got the Kingdom of Naples , Louis Holland and Joachim Murat the new Grand Duchy of Berg . Above all, however, on July 12, 1806, he formed the Confederation of the Rhine, a confederation of German states dependent on France , which would withdraw from the Holy Roman Empire and provide France with troops if necessary. With this step Francis II saw himself induced to lay down the imperial crown on August 6, 1806, with which the Holy Roman Empire expired.

In a certain sense, the Fourth Coalition War of 1806 was a continuation of the Third, as Prussia joined the powers still at war with France. This war ended with the existence-threatening defeat of Prussia.


Web links

Commons : Third Coalition War  - collection of images, videos and audio files